Running is both a physical and motivational challenge--requiring fitness, endurance and a solid plan of action. For many of us, the hardest part isn't preparing our bodies for the race, but rather staying committed to months of training. The following advice will help you maneuver around those motivational roadblocks you're sure to encounter leading up to race day.
1: Set Goals
According to Paige Dunn, a sport psychology consultant based in the San Francisco Bay area, it is important to understand exactly what motivates you to train for a particular race in the first place. Perhaps you overcame an obstacle in your life or are in the process of doing so. Maybe completing a marathon has been a lifelong dream or you want to support your favorite charity. No matter the reason, a solid understanding of why you want to run will motivate you even when times get tough.
Proper goal setting is the foundation of motivation, Dunn says. Start with your season or race goal and break it down into daily goals, which should be specific, realistic and measurable. "These short-term goals can be individual workouts or something more mental like, 'I'm going to relax during my run or focus on my breathing today,'" she says. Daily goals help to build confidence and keep you on track throughout months of training. Dunn encourages runners to create a mission statement for each race season. "As a runner, you need to understand why this race will be a significant achievement for you," Dunn says. For women who have been running for years, it is important to continually re-evaluate your goals "otherwise you're just going through the motions," she says.
2: Keep Track
Brian Baxter, a sport psychology consultant from Portland, Oregon, recommends keeping a training log to keep track of every workout. A day or two before race day, you'll be able to flip through your log for proof of all your hard work. This reinforces in your mind that you're well prepared and deserve to be at the starting line. "When you write down your goals, it's like making a promise to yourself," Baxter says. "One of the easiest ways to not achieve a goal is keeping it inside."
3: Share Goals
In addition to writing down your goals, it is important to share them with supportive family members, friends or even a local running group. Not only will these people be there to encourage you, but because they are invested in your goal, they'll also be the first to call you out if you've been slacking. "A solid support system will help you to stay motivated and be accountable," Dunn says. For an inspirational boost, runner Kara Thom says she corresponds with her best friend and former training partner on a regular basis to discuss each other's training progress. Thom, a mother of four children, says finding the motivation to run can be a challenge with her busy schedule. "My main motivation is knowing that I will be running the race with one of my best friends."
4: Keep Good Company
Scheduling a running date with a friend or group of runners like Team in Training is another way to stay motivated, says Ronda Jameel, a certified running coach and owner of Run2Dend, LLC, a Phoenix-based company specializing in training for beginner to intermediate runners. "You'll be less likely to forego your workout if you're planning to run with someone," Jameel says. Not only will a training partner keep you company, but he or she will be there to encourage you when it's a tough workout and you feel like giving up. Also consider running with your most loyal companion. "Dogs are great training partners because they are always excited to go running, whether it's a cold, rainy day or early in the morning," Jameel says.